Saturday, July 04, 2015

American Independence Day, 2015.

Happy 239th birthday America.
I have only been back in Vinoland for about 41 hours and I'm already getting ready to attend my second Independence Day do.  Last night, I enjoyed some bubbling rosé at Phoenix Ranch Vineyards whilst catching up with friends and watching the 3rd of July firework display at Silverado County Club.  And in just a few hours time I will join even more of my colonial cousins for a festive afternoon of patriotic merrymaking - hopefully washed down with more bubbles.  Problem is, I'm feeling particularly English right now.  But Vinodog 2 wanted to wish a happy 4th of July to all.
God bless America.
Oh...and God save the Queen!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Last-night wine.

Goodbye Blighty, 2015.
That's it, my holiday at home has come to a close.  A trip to the beach; a nice meal with all my family; a lovely English white wine.  What a wonderful last day of my stay.
This bottle of Denbies, 2013 English White Lily, which I purchased in Marks & Spencer for £10.00, was delightful.  Although I would have liked a tad more acid, this white blend of Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and Seyval blanc was a real hit at dinner.
California here I come.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Deva 2.

Like last November, Thud and I took a quick drive over to Chester.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so after we had done some of the usual things that we have always done when we visit Chester - have a coffee, visit my favourite wine shop, walk on some of the Roman wall - we stopped in the Roman Garden for a sit in the sun.  The garden is really a mishmash of  broken columns, pieces of  stonework and a reconstructed hypocaust that were all relocated from various other parts of the city centre.
There are always classes of school children on field-trips in the garden, and other places around town, learning about the Roman way of life.  At the back of this photograph you can see one such school group being put through their paces by a young legionary who is wielding a rather large sword.  I have to say the costumes the actors wear look rather good, albeit to my untrained eye.  However, when we were walking back along the river to the car another legionary passed us and he was holding a metal-capped, wooden staff in his hand.  "Wrong," Thud said, "he should be carrying a vitis."  Indeed, a vine-stick would have been more authentic.  Sin, sin, sin, dex, sin...

Monday, June 29, 2015

El Greco.

I don't always remember to try a wine varietal that has piqued my interest in some way in the past, but whilst out buying groceries with Thud in Sainsbury's today I saw an interesting bottle of wine.  Having seen baby Greco di Tufo grapevines growing last month, I just had to try this wine.
This 2012 Greco di Tufo, Campania (DOCG) was really quite nice; fragrant - herbs and pineapple, nicely balanced - good mouth feel and acid, paired nicely with dinner - salmon and salad.  Coming from a supermarket, it may not be the best Greco di Tufo ever made (however, I have nothing to compare it with), but I would buy it again.  Maybe on my next holiday.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Great British Barbecue.

Absolutely not one single person in England barbecued when I was a kid, but nowadays it seems that just about everybody does.  I find it a rather strange phenomenon given the awfully unpredictable weather in Blighty.  Barbecuing was just something Australians did. 
Today I experienced my first ever this-side-of-the-pond BBQ.  And the weather cooperated, well, for the most part.  However, it was a distinctly English affair.  Yes, there were plenty of burgers and pizzas, which paired with a fabulous Black Cat Vineyards, 2010 Howell Mountain Zinfandel, but the pork and Bramley apple hotdogs were my favourite.  Yum!  Dessert, kindly provided by Tenbellies, was Eton Mess (a traditional English dessert that did indeed originate at Eton College), washed down with a mug of Earl Grey.  Double yum!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Perry refreshing.

I am enjoying my hols.  The weather has been pleasant the past few days (shocker!) and, as a result, the evenings have been quite mild.  A few evenings ago, I decided I wanted something refreshing to drink in the way of an adult beverage, so I raided Thud's fridge.  And it just so happens that Thud had been shopping for something he thought I might like.  Good lad. 
Rekorderlig sparkling pear cider, with passion fruit, is actually what in England we would call a perry.  Perry has been popular in England for centuries and is made from specific pear cultivars - much in the same way that cider is made from apples.  But it isn't cider, is it?  It is perry.  Regretfully, the name perry is increasingly being discarded in favour of the label pear cider in the apparent campaign to dumb down society further and save people from bothering to have to learn a new word (and, God forbid, some history and geography).
In theory it all sounded quite delicious until Tenbellies, my sister-in-law's sister, said that she had had the passion fruit Rekorderlig before and it was lovely.  Thud was immediately sceptical.  He has a long-running joke with Tenbellies about her questionable choice of alcoholic drinks.  The brand name Lambrini - a perry which, despite its Italian sounding name, is actually made in Liverpool - was bandied about in jest.  In all honesty, Tenbellies doesn't really drink, so with its fruity character I could see how the Rekorderlig perry, with only 4% alcohol, might appeal to the casual drinker.  But it wasn't even a particularly good rendition of a perry - very low acid and the passion fruit component wasn't very passion-fruity.  Oh well, I still have a passion fruit yoghurt to try.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A problematic peregrination.

After the journey from hell, which I don't even want to think about, I am finally at home with my family.  Phew! 
A good cup of Earl Grey made me feel a bit better.  And a second cup made me feel a bit cosier, because it's not exactly warm here.  It doesn't matter about the weather though, I'm home.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Get back...

...to where I once belonged, Part 7.
A quick mug of Earl Grey before I head east, away from Vinoland: my next mug of Earl Grey will be in Blighty.  Yes, it is time to head off home once again.  I'm excited.
I will try to post on Vinsanity whilst I'm on my hols, but I'm not promising anything.
Get back JoJo.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fresh and fizzy.

And speaking of Vinho Verde.  I just recently tried, what was for me, a new Vinho Verde.  The Broadbent, NV Vinho Verde (DOC), was a very nice tipple for $5.99 - fresh, bright, lemony-limey with a hint of Golden Delicious apple - I really enjoyed it with grilled salmon.
Eponymously named after Bartholomew Broadbent, son of English wine critic Michael Broadbent, this Vinho Verde is produced from Loureiro, Trajadura and Arinto grapes sourced from contract growers.  I purchased this wine, on sale, in a local supermarket for $5.70 a week ago - I noticed today that it was $6.99.  Is it worth it?  Yes, and no.  I can procure a bottle of Gazela Vinho Verde for $3.99 in a different supermarket and it is actually a slightly better wine, so I'm going to stick with the Gazela, (as every time I drink it I am reminded of how much I like it).  The Broadbent was very nice though.

Friday, June 12, 2015

It's the real thing.

Cork, that is.  Or, to be exact, composite corks.
Today was a bottling day in Vinoland.  The St. Helena Sots arrived bright and early and the clone 7 Cabernet sauvignon was unbarreled, bottled and corked in the blink of an eye.  At least I think it was.  I was away running errands, (too many cooks blah, blah), and buying some victuals for the after-party.  Fun!
The cork of choice for this bottling event was a disc-cork.  A disc-cork has a solid, natural cork disc on each end with a conglomerate of natural, squished cork in between.  Disc-corks are an inexpensive option for corking wines that are meant to be consumed within three years.  What, three years?  Believe me, this wine will last no where near three years around the St. Helena Sots.  Tee-hee!
Speaking of natural cork...I have been getting a butt load (technical term) of emails recently from folks requesting that I post this and that on my blog.  I read some of them, but I generally just delete them.  One recent email, that did catch my eye, was about the resurgence of natural cork as the preferred bottle closure amongst wine-consumers.  The aim of the email was to educate me about the high percentage of  "quality" wines on the planet that employ natural cork, versus those that use cork alternatives (and the consumer's preference for natural cork over synthetics and screw-caps).   As to be expected, perhaps, the email was from, for want of a better word, a lobbyist for the cork industry.  That's alright, I tend to prefer natural cork myself...except when the wine in question is a fun, young white (think a Vinho Verde), and then screw-caps are the perfect closure.  No corkscrew necessary!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Rust never sleeps.

Rust never sleeps?  Neither do I this time of year, or at least it feels like that.  Today, Vinomaker and I decided to clean out the irrigation lines: it was time for the grapevines to get their first watering of the season.
Each row in the vineyard has its own irrigation line and each line has a cap and valve at the end.  Working at either end of the rows, Vinomaker and I flushed water through each of the lines to clear out anything that may have accumulated in the lines since the vines were last watered in October of last year.  (Also, every emitter along the irrigation lines are checked for blockages and replaced if necessary.)  And because we are on a well in Vinoland, the accumulation-culprit is always ferrous iron.  Well, the water in the lines was ferrous (completely dissolved) when it went in, but, as you can see in the photograph, it comes out as ferric (no longer dissolved).  Hello, oxidation.
Making up about 5% of the earth’s crust, iron is one of the earth’s most common elements.  Although present even in city/tap water, iron is seldom found at concentrations greater than 10 mg/l.  As little as 0.3 mg/l can cause water to turn a rusty colour.  But it's a great colour.  
The Pinot grigio vines didn't care about the colour of the water, they just enjoyed their long, cool drink.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Young wine?

A very young 2015 vintage, tee hee.  All the grapevines in Vinoland got off to a very good start this spring and for the most part flowering is now at an end.  Fruit set in the Pinot grigio looks fabulous and I'm very happy with how things are progressing.  I still have lots of shoot-stuffing to do in the Cabernet sauvignon vines, but after that things in the vineyard will slow down quite considerably and I'll have a bit of time to myself.  Until it's time to start the next vineyard operation, or two.

Monday, June 01, 2015

A little book of horrors.

I am always looking for good viticulture reference books and my brand new copy of Vitibook just happens to be a great one.  Written by Diego Barison et al., Vitibook was actually published last year, however, I only just learnt about it.  I had contacted Glenn McCourty, who is a Viticulture & Plant Science Advisor at the U.C. Davis Cooperative Extension for Lake and Mendocino counties (on the advice of wine columnist Dan Berger), to ask if he knew of any published data on Vitis clonal selections that are available to the grapegrower.  And yes, he did.
Vitibook is a little gem of a book out of Italy that is just perfect for a vino-geek like me.  The book is very thorough in its coverage of grapevine morphology and phenology and it includes interesting statistical data about grape-growing regions around the world.  The section on clones is informative and is exactly what I was looking for.  It is the horrifyingly graphic chapters on grapevine diseases and pests that really make this book worth owning.  Replete with full colour photographs that document all sorts of grape maladies and creepy-crawlies, it is a small wonder that anyone would ever decide to develop a vineyard at all.  Frightening.
Vitibook is a wonderful addition to my modest collection of all-things-grapey-reference books.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Slowing down.

I'm not slowing down, nor apparently is this common garden snail (Cornu aspersum) who, along with his pals, keeps popping up in the Syrah vines (not in the garden).  It is the grapevines themselves that are slowing down.  The grand period of growth - a period of time when the shoots of vigorous grape varieties can elongate as much as an inch or more a day - is almost at an end.  During bloom the rapid shoot growth slows; in part due to competition for the allocation of photosynthates; in part because of hormone and enzyme activity in the flowering vine.  But also because May has been an unseasonably cool month.  The California May Grey has also retarded development a little bit, as the weather has been rather chilly and thus the vines have not been quite as enthused.
Me?  I haven't been able to slow down yet.  As quickly as the vines have been putting on vegetal growth, I've been busy tidying the over-zealous shoots by tucking them behind the trellis wires.  The snail?  Well, his departure into the blackberry thicket, facilitated by me, was anything but slow.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

BBCH.

In biology, the Biologische Bundesanstalt, Bundessortenamt und Chemische Industrie-scale (BBCH-scale) is a system used to identify the phenological growth stages of plants, (and it's quite a mouthful).  A series of BBCH-scales have been developed for a range of crops, including grapevines.  According to the BBCH-scale for grapes, Vinoland's grapes are now at growth stage 6; flowering; code 68; 80% of flowerhoods fallen. Put simply, the Cabernet sauvignon is nearly finished flowering.